‘A quick glance at my curriculum vitae reveals that when it comes to molecular biology, I am more of a jack of all trades. My early experience ranged from work in drosophila to structural virology to designing microfluidic devices. So when I decided to settle down and pursue a PhD, of course I chose something completely different: molecular bone biology! Versatility is important, but when you chose a project to really commit to, such as a PhD or post-doc, you better make sure you are capable of becoming an expert in it.
How do you know if the research you are carrying out is world-class? The answer is simple: have the best scientists in your field critique your work for its merits and pitfalls. This is a preliminary peer review of sorts and is precisely what international conferences are aimed at facilitating.
One-year into my PhD, scratching my head with some early results, I decided it was time to get serious. After reading many bone-related papers and protocols, and embarking on a few experiments rather timidly, I wanted to become confident. I needed a contextual understanding of where my work fit in with the scientific community at large.
I decided to attend one of the largest gatherings of bone biologists in the world – the 4th Joint Meeting of the European Calcified Tissue Society (ECTS) and the International Bone and Mineral Society (IBMS) in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
The programme was packed with pre-clinical and clinical sessions on the various aspects of bone biology that contribute to pathologies. I was bombarded with new knowledge, the contexts surrounding that knowledge and the leading scientific perceptions and criticisms of it.
Looking back, the conference was the entire scientific process packaged into a life-changing four days. I had never encountered such excellence in my specific niche all presented in one place. This was exactly the stimulation that I needed to give my work broader context. I feel I have glimpsed inside the world of the bone biology network and the way the specialist scientists work.
Having seen some outstanding work done by fellow PhD students, I now expect and know that I am capable of work of equal calibre – only if I channel the professionalism and dedication that I witnessed at this essentially inspirational conference.
I am grateful to the Biochemical Society and the University of Glasgow for providing the travel awards, and to the Wellcome Trust for funding my research.’